Are you using God instead of getting to know God?

Sometimes, I find it hard to read the Gospels. I grew up hearing and reading all the stories of Jesus. They feel so familiar. I scim over the passages because I’ve heard them over and over again. I don’t see anything new, so I keep going to something else.

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Photo credit Julie Anna Johnson, WoW2013

I find, in recent years, I lean towards reading other passages of Scripture like the letters, proverbs and psalms. I asked myself this question. “Why do I have such a hard time reading the Gospels?”Here’s what came back to me:

Often, I’m reading Scripture to see what I can get out of it for myself.

As a “good” Christian disciple, I study the Bible looking for what’s going to help me be more Christ-like.  What can I apply to my life? What’s going to make me feel joy and live in peace? That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? The Bible is our guide, our road map, our instruction manual. We are supposed to be learning, absorbing, digesting the Word of God and living it out! I do. I love it!

When it comes to the Gospels, however, the focus is solely on Jesus. Yes, so much truth and teaching can be harvested and gathered for me to apply to my life. I’m not diminishing that at all. They show us who Jesus is, how he lived, his example for us to follow.

But sometimes, I need to simply read the Bible just to get to know Jesus- that’s it!

So, that makes me ask another question, “In other areas of Christian life, how much of what we do is for God, or is it for us?”

Music…do you listen to that Christian music because it makes you feel good or is it bringing you into God’s presence?

Church….do you go to church to see what you can get out of it or what the service can do for you? Or, do you prepare yourself for what you can give at church?

Bible studies, volunteering, attending classes, events, communion…do you do all those activities because of what it can do for you or how it makes you feel?

In ministry, are you studying, praying, searching for only what you can use in your sermon or your class? Do you consume Christian material only so you can have something to output?

If we’re not careful, those of us who live in a Christianized culture can fall into the rut of doing these good and right activities because that’s what is expected of us as “good Christians”. We can do these things out of obligation or “that’s just what we do” mentality. We might even be selfishly thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’ We can get too focused on what we’re doing and forget about Who or Why we’re do it. Sounds a bit like the religious Pharisees, doesn’t it? ouch.

I’m guilty of this……I’ll read an article and reference it for a blog post. I’ll hear something on the radio and think ‘I’ll use that in my Wed class’. I’ll hear somebody say something and I’ll think ‘that will be good for the next worship service’.

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Of course, all these activities, disciplines, and pursuits are what we’re supposed to be doing. Of course, we need these disciplines to keep us going in the right direction. We’re always going to be human, and we need these tangibles to help us develop a relationship with God. I’m not suggesting we throw out our studies, music, or activities. No! We need to do these things….yes God grows us and develops us. And YES, we are supposed to seek Him for what to say and do in life and in ministry. He uses all of these practices to communicate in us and through us. But be careful not to fall into the rut of using these things solely for your benefit.

Here’s what I’m doing. I’ve started reading the Gospels again with Mark. I’m reading slowly, asking questions, and noticing details. What was Jesus feeling? How did he react?

So ask yourself: am I doing this to draw closer to God or to make me look or feel more “Christian”? Am I consuming this material only to have something to output to others? Am I spending time with God just for God’s sake?..Am I getting to know Jesus?…not what I can get out of Him but simply to know Him.

Here’s a study guide to help you ask questions as you read the Gospels with a fresh set of eyes. Click on this study guide:  Class notes

I’m looking forward to getting to know Jesus better. Hope you are too!

~Amy

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Are you chasing rainbows?

Striving for success is like chasing a rainbow. The search is pretty with lots of colors and sparkle with the promise of that pot of gold at the end. Really, though, you never get to the end.

I’ve shared about how I’m learning to find value over success in the areas of ministry over at Facebook. Through this journey, developing a taste for value isn’t easy. We humans seek out applause, recognition and affirmation. Even if you don’t like being in front of crowds, you still want to be noticed for what you do behind the scenes.

If this desire is the motivating factor behind anything we do, it’s driving us for the wrong reason. Plus, it’s chasing that elusive rainbow where we’ll never reach the end to get that infamous pot of gold. Chasing success will never fully satisfy, therefore, it will never really end. If you are like me, my intentions to serve and minister were good. However, deep down under those good intentions, I still wanted to know if people noticed me. Their response was my measuring stick of whether I was good enough. I wanted to be successful because that must mean God’s stamp of approval was on me. Well, and…..that people liked ME!!

How do you know if you are chasing rainbows ?

First of all, I am learning my identity is in Christ alone. Once I learn my worth is in Christ and my relationship to Him is more important than what I do, then I can let go of needing what other people say or how they respond. My efforts at ministry are an overflow of loving God. This is an ongoing process. I’m never going to fully realize this as long as I’m on earth.

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Once I have my identity in the right place, I can distinguish the difference between success and value: Success feeds my ego and pride, and value encourages others, glorifies God, and makes me thankful.

Seeking success benefits me. It feeds my ego. To be successful, I’m focus on the number of likes I get on a post or the number of views on a Facebook video. In front of a crowd, I’m looking to see how many people show up or how much they applaud. I’m getting very transparent here…I”ll even wonder if this one thing will open up an opportunity for another thing. Success (for me), more often than not, is trying to look good for myself, to make sure people notice me, and see what’s in it for me. When I’m striving to be successful, it’s all about me.

Seeking value benefits the people around me. I’m not concerned with how I look but rather if people are encouraged, edified, and desire to draw closer to God. Do they hunger for a deeper relationship with God because of how I’m am reflecting Christ?

Another way I know I’m being of value is when a precious woman writes me a thank you note saying how much she got out of an event. Or, a dear friend tells me to keep going because my efforts are making a difference. Or, someone telling me what I said was exactly what they needed to hear. God uses these individual responses to encourage me that what I’m doing is of value to each of them.

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My ultimate measure of whether I’m seeking success or value is my intention towards God’s glory. Am I wanting Him to get the credit or me? Am I worried about looking good or spiritual or ‘all-together’? Or, am I focused on God being the center of attention? Am I more concerned with placing my acts of service at His feet, as an offering to Him, and then leaving the results up to Him?

I’m working at it in practical ways…….

I am developing the practice of not looking at the results and likes on social media. I am developing a reliance on God’s love and presence and my identity in Him. I am working at performing a task and not expecting anyone to notice or get credit for it. I am growing in doing my best even when no one is looking. And then, when God does something really awesome, I fully celebrate and give Him the credit, “Look what God did!!”

Also, I treasure those notes and words of encouragement from precious souls. I really feel like God is hugging me and wrapping His arms around me saying, “Keep at it, Beloved!”

Finally, I’m learning that whatever applause, affection, or praise I do receive, I’m to offer it back up to God with thanksgiving.

Alicia Britt Chole, in her book 40 Days of Decrease, describes how she imagines all the praise and success she receives from others like flowers. At the end of the day, she gathers those flowers given to her and offers them back to God as a bouquet of gratitude.

I love that idea! Giving back to God what is rightfully is His anyway!

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So, I’ve got 2 challenges for you.

1-The next time you serve or volunteer ask yourself, “Am I trying to be successful or valuable?” When you do something at work, are you expecting someone to notice or hoping God will get the credit? When you do get showered with praise, make a point to gather up those flowers and give them back to God as your offering of thanksgiving.

2- If someone does something that made a difference in your life, tell them. Write a note, send a text, or post on their Facebook page. You’ll never know what it means to them to hear, “What a difference you made in my life!”

As we learn together to practice the pursuit of value, those rainbows won’t be so alluring. That pot of gold won’t seem so tempting, and we’ll find our satisfaction in the treasure of God alone.

Share with me what you’re doing to be of value over at the WoW page!

~Amy

 

Do you know what you are going to say when it’s time for “The Talk”?

Last week, I shared with you about a video course for moms to discuss with their daughters all about sex. Even though I’ve talked with my daughters about the basics, I still need some help.

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I thought I was prepared for to talk with my girls about the ‘birds and bees’. I’ve got my little books. We’ve talked some about the facts and that seems pretty easy. But there’s so much more than just the facts……so I realize I need some help.

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And that makes me wonder if you do too?

I feel so strongly that this conversation with my daughters is so important. I’ve got this one shot to get it right. What I’m realizing is the growing up talks cannot be just “one and done” kinda thing.

That’s why I think “The Whole Story” is so great because its not only about information about the facts, but it also gives you the resources to have ongoing conversations. The course helps you develop your relationship with your girls so that the discussion keeps going once the course is finished.

In the 8-12 yr old version, you’ll cover topics like:

  • Her period, including why it happens, how to handle it, and how to make it most comfortable.
  • Other body changes she will be experiencing, including breast development, hair growth, and body odor.
  • What sex is and how babies are made.
  • How to handle boys and peer pressure in the preteen years.
  • How to take care of your body to manage all of these changes.

In the 13-15 yr old version, you’ll cover things like:

  • How to troubleshoot issues with your period that aren’t often talked about.
  • Navigating relationships with guys in the teenage years.
  • Discussions about how to handle social issues like when friends make mistakes, bullying, and online peer pressure.
  • Candid conversation about the highly sexualized world we live in and how to honor God in the midst of that.
  • Learning the skill of styling yourself to send a message–a message that honors God and shows respect for yourself and others

Each version is $39 which includes 1 year access to the videos plus lots of printables, resources, and activities. Both for $69

You can get the VIP package for $99 with lifetime access and participation in a Facebook group.

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But I’ve got a GREAT deal for you! I’ve been given permission to share a $30 off coupon with you for purchasing the VIP package. That’s $69 for both versions of the course with lifetime access! This is a great deal when you have more than one girl in different ages or your want to revisit the videos and resources as your girls grow older. Like I said, you will want to have many conversations as your girls grow up.

Use coupon code: WholeStoryWOW……but hurry….the coupon is only good through Oct 9th!!

I feel this course is so important that I agreed to be an affiliate partner.  So every course you purchase through this special link, I will receive a portion of the fee.

Check out The Whole Story here.
Got any questions? Shoot me an email…

Thanks for letting me share this opportunity with you!
~Amy

When it’s time for “The Talk”

Can we talk Mom to Mom??

I know… I don’t talk much about parenting or child rearing or things of that nature on this blog. I usually just stick to your personal journey as a Christ follower, the Body of Christ, etc……..but in this instance, it’s important.

My heart hurts and there’s a sick feeling in my gut at the extreme sexulization of our culture. There are SO many things to protect our children from in this day and age. It’s so different from when I was growing up just like so many of you…….. It was a BIG deal when a girl got pregnant in high school. Although music and movies had a good deal of implied innuendos and some explicit material, it wasn’t in commercials or plastered on billboards. If you wanted to find some questionable material, you had to put forth some effort to get go out and get it.

Now, the risk of viewing pornography exists on EVERY computer. Teens and children are sexually active at younger and younger ages. There’s sexting and easy access to all manner of movies, music and shows. Kids are exposed to so much more now than ever!!

We know, back in the day, it was tough for parents to talk with their kids about sex, puberty, and all that goes with it! But now, it’s even tougher!!! AND kids are learning things at younger ages, so the pressure is even bigger to get the knowledge to your children before they hear it from someone else!

Add another big factor…….raise your hand if you are comfortable and, in fact, excited about telling your kids about sex?? Anyone? Yep. I thought so……me too…….ugh!

If you are anything like me, the extent of my parental talks was one short talk on STDs when I was 12 and an even shorter (and rather uncomfortable) talk the day before I got married 8-}

So here we are with a hyper-sexulized culture and best-of-intention moms trying their best to give their kids the right information and the best of God’s design for sex so they can grow up to be the fulfilled adults God created them to be!

What’s a mom gonna do?

I have found a wonderful tool to help!

I follow and read several blogs. When I share links, articles, and materials, I ONLY share the information that I believe is the BEST! I have found such an excellent resource for you to share and grow with your daughters about sensitive and tough topic.

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Christian Blogger and Marriage writer, Sheila Wray Gregoire from ToLoveHonorandVacuum.com, has created a fantastic new video course with her daughters called “The Whole Story”! Take a look:

What is The Whole Story

The Whole Story: Not-So-Scary Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up 

  • An online, video-based course for moms and daughters about sex, puberty, and growing up.
  • Comes in two age groups: One for daughters 10-12, and one for daughters 13-15.
  • The videos are led by “young adult” mentors who feel like “funny big sisters”. (They’re 20 & 22 and have their own ministries!)
  • Then checklists, discussion questions and mother-daughter activity ideas help moms and girls solidify the information and continue the conversation.
  • All taught from a Biblical and Christian worldview
  • The course is $39 per version, or $69 for both. That gives you one year of access
  • The VIP version contains both courses, with lifetime access, and a whole bunch of extra goodies for $99.

I’ve been reading Sheila’s blog for several years now and have gained a lot of insight and guidance to help me be a better wife. Now, I’m so excited that she (along with her daughters) have created a quality course to help me just in the nick of time! My daughters are 12 ,10, and 10, so we are in the prime time window for these talks.

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The course is designed so that you watch the videos together and then have opportunities to continue the discussion about the topic. It’s not meant to be a replacement of a parent, but rather, it’s a resource to help you to successfully build your relationship with your daugther!

The course includes everything you need- online videos, printables, and activities to do together.

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In fact, I am so excited about this course, I’ve been given the opportunity to be an affiliate partner with Sheila and her daughters which means every course you purchase through my special link I get a portion of the proceeds.

In addition to that….Sheila is allowing me to share with you a special coupon: WholeStoryWOW that you can apply to the VIP package. You can get $30 off the $99 VIP package which includes lifetime access to both courses plus all the printables and extra goodies. For less than the price of dinner and a movie for your family, you’ve got access to the resources that can help shape your daughter’s future.

Yeah, that may be kind of heavy but, it’s pretty much true.

I really want to raise my daughters to develop a healthy, Godly view of sex, to know their value as a woman, and have a marriage that exemplifies the mystery of Christ and His Church. I’ve got one chance to do my job as a parent. I’ve got one short season to impact the rest of their lives in such an important way. That’s why I’m so excited that “The Whole Story” is available to help me in this journey with my daughters! And, I know you do too!

Check out this video to find out more information or click on my link here for more information.

If this course isn’t for you in this season of life, that’s totally ok! But, I bet you know someone who is. Would you share this with them?? That would be so awesome!

Just to keep everything out on the table, remember, I’m sharing this with you as an affiliate partner for the course. For every purchase using this link, I will receive a small commission. But make sure you use the coupon code: WholeStoryWOW for $30 off the VIP package! Hurry, the coupon offer will expire by October 9th!

I pray this course will help our girls grow into the women God designed them to be!

~Amy

When the Dark Times Come

Try as we might to let the sun shine through us…..

Try as we might to remove every hindrance that that blocks His Light in our lives….

Dark times will come.

It’s not a matter of ‘if‘ but rather ‘when‘.

If you are living and breathing, a total eclipse of some kind will eventually come (or already has).

 People are born for trouble
    as readily as sparks fly up from a fire. Job 5:7

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Peter Scazzero in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, describes these dark times as ‘journeying through the wall’, and St John of the Cross describes it as even ‘the dark night of the soul’. These walls and dark nights are seasons of difficult, painful experiences that may cause us to doubt our faith and question whether God is even able to do anything about it, or even if He cares.

These experiences may be through a health crisis, a family tragedy, a financial fallout, or a natural catastrophe. Any number of physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual situations may fling us into a downward spiral. The initial cause may be of our own doing through bad decisions or bad living. It could also be from someone else’s junk, and we get caught in the wake of their trouble.

Peter Scazzero describes it as, “our good feelings of God’s presence evaporate. We feel the door of heaven has been shut as we pray. Darkness, helplessness, weariness, a sense of failure or defeat, barrenness, emptiness, dryness descend upon us. The Christian disciplines that have served us up to this time ‘no longer work’. We can’t see what God is doing and we see little visible fruit in our lives.’ Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

I don’t believe God desires these dark times, but I believe He allows them to happen. I don’t believe for a second God wants us to experience pain and suffering. However, I do believe He will use any situation where Satan attempts to ‘sift us as wheat’ for the purifying of our faith and the maturing of our souls until we are refined into the image of Christ.

Last week, when we talked about the spiritual significance of the eclipse and how it can block the Light in our lives, a wonderful friend had this to say-

……..when you were talking about how we should not let things block our light, I thought about my dark time a few years ago.  My spiritual eclipse.  Looking back on it, I think now I know what it is like to be in the dark and I work and work and work to keep from letting that ever happen again.  Truthfully, that eclipse made me stronger spiritually.  I don’t know if I am closer to God, because I was already really close to him.  But it made me determined not to ever be put in the dark again.  I won’t let anything pass between me and God.  I feel ready. I thought about how the eclipse … the dark time…. tried to extinguish my faith but it was still burning bright enough behind it.  When you look at the eclipse, there is supposed to be a light circle where the sun is still peaking out around it.  That was my faith.  It was still there burning bright enough to help me find my way out.  No, the pat answers are not enough and, in fact, can be hurtful.  Being reminded that God is there with us in our troubles helps.  That even though it is dark, he is still there..always has been and always will be. ..Like with the eclipse, if I had focused too hard on it I could have gone blind to my faith.   We cannot focus on that…we cannot stare at and dwell on the darkness. That is what I tried to do for a bit….thank God that he was shining through it all.

Yes!! We cannot focus on the dark times, or it might blind us for good! We’ve got to keep focused despite how we feel, how bad the circumstance, how dark the total eclipse may seem that God is with us. God will never leave us. Although we might not feel it, God is carrying us.

Most people would never ask for those dark times. Most who’ve made it to the other side would agree the closeness with God that resulted from it is more precious than gold.

Are you going through a dark time? Are you experiencing your own total eclipse?

What can you do while experiencing the long, dark night?

There’s no formula or 5 steps. To be honest, I feel very limited in offering advice. Pat “Christian” answers often don’t help. It can even make things worse to say “God’s got this.” or “Just keep praying and believing.” Yes, those things are true, but they can fall so flat when someone is in such a dark season that their faith is so weak they can’t even pray.

I offer to meager suggestions;

Practice being in God’s presence…..however you can do that, do it. The feelings may not come quickly, but God is still working deep within us even though we may not feel it or see it. Get up to the Mountain!

Also, encourage others around. Yes, you are hurting and in deep pain. Even in your darkness, out of sheer faith or determined will, do something for someone else. Say a kind word, pay it forward at the drive-thru, whatever you can do, do something for someone else. This is God’s Economy. You will reap a harvest of joy when you sow in kindness.

Have you come through a dark time and lived to tell about it?

God is with you.

~Amy

Let Your Light Shine!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably participated in the Total Eclipse in some form or fashion. So, it’s totally cool that I already anticipated talking about “light” this week. Isn’t it neat how that “lined up” with the eclipse!!

Our lives can be compared to an eclipse. We’re supposed to let our lights shine. The light that has been put in us, by Jesus, needs to be shared with those around us. But sometimes something can block us from shining that light just like the moon passing between the earth and the sun.

Last week, we talked about all the different purposes of salt and how we can be useful like salt. Light, however, is subject to many variables. Sharing ideas from the same book, Finding the Way, Lori found some interesting facts about light. She says,

“Pure salt is good for its purpose. If salt becomes contaminated and cannot serve it purpose, it needs to be thrown out. Light is different in that, light’s effectiveness is subject to outside influences. However, if light is still weak, it still gives off light.”

Jesus is the light shining through us, and it will never go out. But, we can block that light or dim it or keep it from shining its brightest in us.Maybe it’s a sin you struggle with constantly. Maybe it’s hurt or pain from your past. Maybe it’s a toxic or negative person. Is it your job that you hate or your family that is so crazy? It could be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. It could be you or it could be others affecting you. It could be your circumstances or just plain ole’ mean people.  No matter what it is, it can block the light from shining through you.

Matthew 5:14-16 says 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

We shouldn’t hide the light of Jesus or block it. By the way we live out our lives with good deeds, we are letting His light shine. Furthermore, we don’t shine His Light so that others can see us and think how awesome we are. We shine His Light by our good deeds so that everyone can see how awesome God is!

Do you mess up letting His Light shine through you? Yep, I do too.

My selfish attitude can flare up. My patience runs thin. I can snap at the kids or yell at the slow driver in front on me. I can be tired or hormonal. There are so many times when I dim His Light by my fleshly deeds.

There is hope!

Colossians 1:15-20 says Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,[e]
16 for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
    which is his body.
He is the beginning,
    supreme over all who rise from the dead.[f]
    So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
    was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
    everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God.  I find strength and power in the reassurance that Jesus holds all of creation together. Everything was created through him and for him. God reconciled everything to himself. Jesus is the Light.

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It’s not my job to be the Light. I’m just supposed to take what Christ has done in me and share the Light to others!!! What exciting news! Sure, I’ve got to be an active participant in allowing God to grow me and purify me, making sure those things that eclipse His Light are cleared away and removed. He is doing the work in me as I am shining His Light for him!

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!

Hide it under a bushel, NO! I”m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!!!!

~Amy

God Sees the Real Me!!

It’s time for a contest!!!

I really want to encourage you. I really want you to know that God loves you and sees you. I want to share information about other ministries and events. I really want to give you stuff that will make you want to be more passionate and devoted in your walk with Christ!

Soooooooo…………….

I want you to sign up for the WoW newsletter!

By signing up for the WoW newsletter, you’ll get info about once a month on local events, blog posts and videos and free resources like printables and ebooks only found in the newsletter! I promise I won’t blow up your inbox with tons a stuff (about once a month is all I can handle)!

So here’s how it will work:

1)Go to the “God sees the Real me” Facebook event here.

2) Each time you share the event with a friend, your name goes in the drawing.

3) Every person who signs up for the WoW newsletter gets their name in the drawing.

4) The contest will last from Aug 20-Sept 3 and I’ll draw a name on Labor day.

The winner will receive the beautiful plaque:

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Large wooden plaque, 11×14, hand painted

I’ll mail it or deliver it to the winner that week.

As soon as you sign up for the WoW newsletter, you’ll get your first downloadable e-book “How to be More Interdenominational” and a few other goodies. Then, keep on the lookout for each month’s newsletter. *Don’t forget to check your spam folder in case the email ends up there.*

One more thing…..I REALLY hope you enjoy the stuff shared in the newsletter and you get some encouragement from it!!

Thanks for sharing and thanks for signing up!!!

~Amy

 

Don’t Forget Your Salt!

Summer break is over , and I’m back at work for my school job. This transition back to a structured day has both its good and bad points.

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Summer swimming 2016 photo credit Nancy Rutledge

A regular routine always gets me back on track with my personal study and quiet time. I’m usually more efficient and organized. I struggle, though, with early starts to the day (if only the world would start after 8am please) and having enough time and energy to get it all done- homework, laundry, cooking and cleaning. You know how it goes.

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Life never stops so just keep cheering!!!

What idea that has helped me more than any in getting back to a new school year is to realize the amazing opportunity I have to live out my faith with the children and women that surround me every day. In other words, I’ve been called to be the salt.

 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. Matt 5:13

Matthew 5:13 calls us to be the salt of the earth, so I’ve been thinking about the quality of my salt. In her book, Finding the Way, my friend, Lori Cline, discovered all the effective uses for salt. “If salt becomes contaminated and cannot serve its purpose, it needs to be thrown out.” She goes on to explain the uses for salt: a food additive, a biological necessity, as food storage, and as a purifier.

A Food Additive– Salt brings out the flavor of food. One time I made some muffins for the kids and forgot to add the salt. Needless to say, they weren’t interested in eating the muffins. They tasted too flat. As a Christian, I’m supposed to bring a good flavor to the environment around me with my attitude and character. My saltiness is supposed to make others want to “taste and see that the Lord is good”.

A Biological Necessity– Sodium is a nutrient for all living creatures. Too much or too little is not a good thing. Am I living my faith so that others realize they need Jesus? Can they see that they need more of Jesus?

Food Storage: Salt is a preservative. Its keep meat and fish from ruining and safe to eat. When I am in my day to day routine, do I act in such a way as to keep the situation from ruining? Do I preserve my environment to keep it safe and stable? Or, do I bring instability or decomposition? Do things break down? If the quality of my salt is good, my presence, actions, and attitude will help to bring keep things safe.

Purifier: When I think of salt as a purifier, I think of making things clean and helping to heal. How can I purify the environment around me? I might be tempted to think that purpose as a purifier is to make sure everybody knows what it is they are doing wrong. I should be correcting them to make them more pure. However, I love what Lori says,

“You can be that purifying salt by being humble, showing grace, mercy, and forgiveness. You can teach others to be thankful in all things, good and bad. Jesus purified this world by showing God’s qualities (Beatitudes).”

All of these ideas about salt really make me think about how I’m living out my faith in front of others. Does my presence bring an inviting flavor and cause others to thirst for Jesus? Do I make others realize how much they need Jesus? Do my attitudes and actions preserve stability and safety? How am I acting as a purifier? Am I showing God’s qualities?

earth globe
holding a glowing earth globe in his hands

In Matthew, it tells us that worthless salt needs to be thrown out. If we’ve lost our salt, we are not going to be much good at bringing Christ to the world around us. I sure do want to be salty enough to make others want more of Jesus.

Here’s a little Facebook video talking about all the uses of salt here!

Don’t forget your salt!

~Amy

 

Can you walk in someone else’s shoes?

Churches are like shoes. Everybody has a favorite pair that goes with just about everything, and they are broken in just right. You feel comfortable and confident in your favorite pair. If you are like me, finding and buying a new pair may take quite a long time because it’s so hard to find the right fit. Even then, a new pair can take a while to get comfortable.

Churches can be the same way. You attend the church that is comfortable for you- the music fits, the preaching fits, the style of worship fits you just right. For some of you, you’ve attended the same church all your life like a pair of shoes that never wear out. For others, you’ve tried on several different churches like buying a new pair of shoes with the changing seasons.

We get so comfortable with the way we ‘do’ church, we might have a hard time understanding how someone else could possibly attend another kind of church. We are so familiar with our prefered style of worship that we can’t possibly see how any other kind of church could ever be useful to someone else. And, we may not say it out loud, but we think, “that kind of church is just not of God”.

Hear me out. I know we have our denominational beliefs for certain reasons. I, too, have strong theological convictions. I believe, just like you, that some doctrinal beliefs are simply unbiblical. However, some of our perceptions of other churches are unnecessarily negative because we have a limited view of why they worship the way they do.

churcheslikeshoes

You take a sliver of knowledge about a church and let it shape your whole thinking. It could be from a movie or tv show or from hearing family members talk about other churches. Maybe you’ve actually been taught from your church leadership that the worship and beliefs of other churches are wrong. Catholics worship Mary. Pentecostals speak in tongues. Churches of Christ don’t use instruments. It may or may not be true, but your limited understanding is skewed because you often don’t get the full context and reasoning behind a belief or practice. A little bit of misunderstanding disqualifies them from any possible common ground as fellow believers.

No matter how you formed your perceptions, this lack of understanding causes you to step back from the people who worship that way. And when you step back, that creates a divide. It’s this division that separates us from unity.

Ok, maybe you’ve fully studied other churches’ theological and doctrinal beliefs, and you simply believe they are wrong. Still, if your study has led you to disassociate with other believers, then division still exists and the fullness of unity is not expressed.

I believe now more than ever we need to be unified in building God’s Kingdom as the Body of Christ. This doesn’t mean we stop worshipping at our preferred churches, but rather take intentional steps to get to know and understand people from other churches to gain an appreciation for their particular style and mission.

Uniformity does not equate to conformity. We don’t have to conform to each other’s point of view in order to be unified. In God’s beautiful Body, we can be uniquely shaped for our specific mission, and yet be solidly unified in our purpose of Kingdom building and love for each other.

bodyofChrist
Women of the Way 2013

So if churches are like shoes, walk in someone else’s shoes for a change!

Seriously! This past Sunday I shared a Facebook Live video and challenged everyone to try this one thing this summer: go visit someone else’s church! You can check out that video here!

Also, I’ve made a special handout for some good ideas to interact with other believers. “How to be More Interdenominational” has lots of ways to make connections and get to know others from different kinds of churches. Check that out here.

When you have a conversation, you get to know the person. Then, you understand a little bit more of where they are coming from and why they do what they do. Their different ways don’t seem so mysterious, and you can appreciate their point of view. Understanding develops, division diminishes, and unity grows!!!

I know many of you already participate with other believers, and so many of you have a heart for the Body of Christ that I know I’m preaching to the choir! However, if any of those dividing thoughts have ever crossed your mind, won’t you consider trying on a different pair of shoes just to see what it’s like?

Try walking a mile….or just a Sunday….in someone else’s shoes!

~Amy

 

 

When I need to get up to the Mountain

On Facebook this week, I talked about “God’s Billable Hours” asking how much time do you spend with God?

Jesus was our Perfect example in every aspect of His Life to show us how to live, and I love that it’s no different in how Jesus shows us how to pray.

Happy little girl
Getting up to the mountain to pray

Over and over in Scripture, it says ‘he went up to the mountain’ or ‘he found a quiet place to pray’. He knew he needed quiet and solitude in God’s presence to sustain His connection with His Father.

We all know we need to spend time praying, but it’s hard getting away to a mountain.

I don’t have a mountain, but I am trying to get creative in finding ways to get alone with God. Here are some of my strategies……

Get up early- Now that the kids are sleeping later, I get up early when the house is quiet. I love to sleep late in the summers so this is a big one for me. It’s totally worth it though. I love the sunshine brightening up the house and the birds chirping.

Sit under a tree at sunset– When the sun is going down, the neighborhood gets quiet, and the stillness is calming and relaxing. I’ll grab a folding chair and sit outside during the dusk hour. The hurried, hectic feeling from trying to get everything done on my to-do list releases, and the day washes away.

Lazy summer days are the best!
colorful sunset at the sea shore

Hide in the bathroom– Yep. Keeping it real. Some of my best prayer times are in the bathroom. Be honest…..so is yours, right? Or maybe it’s the shower! I’ll also hide in the laundry room because it’s down in the basement. This spot isn’t my favorite because there’s nothing beautiful to look at like sunshine or pretty stars. Sometimes, though, the solitude is more important than the setting.

Lunch time study– During the school year when I am working, lunchtime is a great time to be by myself for study and prayer. I began this habit about 3 years ago, and it’s been wonderful. The regular, daily time during my lunch has helped me build an appetite for study and prayer, and I can tell how much I’ve miss it when it doesn’t happen.

Driving in the car– When going to pick up kids or run some errands, I try to make the conscious choice to not turn on the radio. Instead, having a Jesus talk gets me some alone time with Him.

Falling asleep at night– This one may seem a little odd, but it’s a habit I’ve learned to develop. At night when I’m trying to fall asleep, I think of all the good things that happened that day for which I’m thankful. I think about my favorite moments with each of my kids or the best moments of the day. I have my final talk with God for all the good stuff He’s given me. This little habit has become such a blessing.

sunrise-in-savanna_f1ibGZDu

So there are my ways of getting ‘up to the mountain’ to be with God. I’m not perfect at it, and some days are better than others. There are times when I’m more consistent than others, but the key is to keep at it.

Many of you are probably out of the ‘kids at home’ season, so maybe you have totally different strategies than I do to make prayer time happen. I’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment here or on the WoW Facebook page!

What do you do to get up to the mountain to pray?

~Amy